The picture of the tunnel above is also the source of some interesting memories. Among other things, my friends almost got hit by a train here once. This tunnel is some distance from the location of my story but this is a great image to share with you anyway. I hope you enjoy the conclusion of the Unknown of Henryton.
The police had starting parking at the empty dirt patch just down the road from the entrance to Henryton Sanatorium almost every night. This made it nearly impossible to park nearby, forcing people who be creative about how they got onto the property. Jacob was always the designated driver (not because they were drinking, just because he was good at it). He had discovered a small gift shop about a mile away from the entrance. It was next to the railroad tracks that led directly past the sanatorium. Jacob had the idea to park at the shop, which was presumably closed at one o’clock in the morning, and follow the railroad tracks. They had done it a few times before so they were fairly convinced that no one would see them.
The first time they followed the tracks a train came through and they had to hide in the brush. Tonight, there was no train.
There was very little sound. Even the forest on either side of the tracks was eerily quiet.
They hopped out of Jacob’s SUV and started down the tracks.
They had their flashlights but no one wanted to turn them on until they were out of sight from the road. The street light provided enough light that they could see their way down the tracks for a short distance. Silent as the night itself the three trekked on, bundled in their coats on that cold, autumn night. Every once in a while they would glance behind them to make sure no police pulled into lot.
They were alone.
Just about the time they were through the tree line and out of the sight of the road, they decided to turn on a flashlight. As they continued walking something drew Sarah’s attention and she quickly looked behind her down the tracks, toward the road.
There was a solitary light coming toward them from the shop.
“Guys,” She alerted. “Is someone following us?”
They turned around. “Just stay still.” Cameron said. “It’s far enough away that it could just be someone who lives there.”
“I thought it was a store.” Jacob whispered.
“Yeah, but someone could live upstairs.” He paused for a moment. “But I don’t see a car.”
The light was swinging as if someone was carrying a lantern.
“Maybe we should go back.” Sarah suggested.
“Then they’ll see us for sure.” Cameron replied. “And hear our car start.”
They stood in silence. The light swayed but it didn’t seem to come any closer so they quietly pressed on. What seemed like a second later, Sarah turned and looked again. The light was closer. Impossibly closer. She jumped and grabbed Cameron’s hand.
“What the-” Cameron whispered under his breath. He had seen it too. No one could have moved that fast without the three of them hearing something.
“What should we do?” Sarah asked.
Cameron shushed her. The light seemed to hover but they still could not see whoever was carrying it. It was so dark. They could see the outline of someone but no defining features. Cameron slowly led them to the brush a few feet away where they all crouched low. The light once again remained stationary some distance away.
“What if it’s the cops?” Sarah was beginning to get nervous. She could feel her heart flutter inside her ribcage. She did not want to get arrested. Yes, they were trespassing. Yes, they were technically breaking the law. But what they did at Henryton never hurt anyone and it wasn’t morally wrong. Would a cop understand that? Or would he just see three kids looking for a fun time.
She hated the idea of hearing the person holding the lantern yell, “What are you kids doing?” They were hardly kids. All of them were old enough to drink, one was a manager, two were college graduates. But nonetheless a ticked off resident or cop would refer to them as kids.
That’s when it occurred to her. “It can’t be a cop.” She pointed out. “That’s not a high powered flashlight. A cop would have called out to us by now.”
She felt Cameron’s hand relax slightly in her grasp but he was still tense. “And whoever lives in that house would have also yelled at us, or threatened to call the police. Or done it by now.”
“So who the hell is following us?” Jacob’s voice quivered, even in the hushed whispered.
“I don’t know,” Cameron replied, slowly rising. “But they’re not moving. If we’re going to do this, we’ve got to get a move on. If they keep following us, we’ll confront them. Maybe it’s just other trespassers.”
“Trespassers, plural?” Sarah hissed. “I don’t see multiple people.”
“Let’s just move.”
With that, they started moving again, faster this time. It did not take long before they all turned to see the light was even closer than it had been the previous time.
“That’s it.” Sarah said. “I’m done. Let’s go back to the car and when we pass them we’ll just say we’re sorry and that we’re leaving. I don’t want to go any further and be caught out here alone with anyone. If that’s not a cop or a resident, I don’t want to get stuck out here with them.”
“I agree.” Said Jacob.
Defeated, the three of them turned and nervously approached their stalker. The light was moving toward them as they approached. Very soon they would meet and they’d finally see who was holding the lantern.
Sarah thought of excuses she would use. If it was a cop, she would apologize. She would say they were just there to get some EVP readings and some photographs for paranormal research but they understand they were trespassing and they were leaving. If it was a resident she’d give them the same speech. It was the unknown element of the figure that mystified her. If not a resident and not a cop, who could it be?
They got closer and the light moved across the tracks away from them. The light was still coming at them but it was as if they were also trying to be avoided by whoever was holding the light source. They were on top of it now and surely would see the person walking across the railroad.
Suddenly, the light disappeared. Sarah blinked and rubbed her eyes as if they were playing a trick on her.
“Where’d it go?”
No one responded. Even in the pale light of the street lamp ahead that was now visible she could see Cameron and Jacob’s faces were ashen. Cameron started walking faster, trying to catch whoever had eluded them. All of a sudden they had become the stalkers.
Cameron swore under his breath but the figure was nowhere to be seen and the light had completely vanished.
“I don’t like this.” Jacob said. “Let’s get out of here. I got the keys out, let’s go.”
He was gone. Sarah grabbed Cameron’s hand and dragged him with her as she followed Jacob to the car. The climbed into the SUV as fast as they could. Jacob cranked the engine and they sped off, taking one last look behind them. There was no life inside the store as they drove past. There were no lights on the porch, no lantern in the clearing, and no movement toward the tree line and the railroad tracks. Whatever they had seen was gone.
As I said in yesterday’s post, this is loosely based on a true story. I can honestly say of all my ghost hunting experiences, and of all my trips to Henryton, this was the scariest. Isn’t this true of all of us?? Not knowing is almost always worse than knowing. The great Alfred Hitchcock earned his fame on this philosophy. He did not have gore or blood in his films. He had the unknown, accompanied by some really creepy music. Up to this point in my life, I’d felt the presence of evil, seen ghosts, felt the presence of ghosts, and had some odd inexplicable experiences, but nothing compared to the light on the railroad tracks that night. There was simply no explanation. The people I was with also do not scare easily and we were all on edge that night. I actually to this day still wish it had been a police officer or resident. At least then we could have made excuses and talked to a flesh and blood body. Sadly, Henryton was demolished last year (or maybe the year before), and we never went back after that night, but while it was standing, that facility held some history, sorrow, and fear that emanated off the walls. It was one of many such hospitals across the country that represent a time in American history where medical practice was still young and inexperienced, oftentimes ignorant. We did not know how to treat such deadly communicable diseases or deal with the patients suffering. I think this place was a way for some to linger and communicate their feelings and I am proud to have been a part of that communication even if on a small level. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this story and I hope I made it creepy enough for you. Maybe it was a You-Had-To-Be-There moment, or maybe I just made you think twice before you go ghost hunting at an abandoned hospital 🙂